October 27, 2015

By Luna Greenstein

ABC-TV is planning to re-air last season’s Halloween episode of Modern Family (“AwesomeLand”) this week on Oct. 28. When the episode was originally aired one year ago, we gave ABC and Modern Family the benefit of the doubt and tried to show them how the images and they used could contribute to people’s misconceptions about mental illness. When NAMI found out that ABC was planning to rerun this episode, we felt that it was in blatant disregard to the many people in the mental health community who voiced their concerns last year. Choosing to show the episode again shows that ABC doesn’t have a problem with the incorrect violent depictions of people with mental illness.

I speak for many of my colleagues when I say we are big fans of Modern Family. So it hurt us even more when we heard the decision to re-air an episode. The depictions of people with mental illness as “deranged mental patients” deters people from finding help and getting treatment. Modern Family is a highly rated and beloved show that often encourages the ideas of inclusivity and understanding. But they seriously dropped the ball on this one. By treating mental illness differently than other topics at a time when so many people are working to make mental health a topic openly discussed, Modern Family shows itself to be very unmodern.

NAMI has issued a press release to news media asking the network to drop the episode. Also, NAMI and NYAPRS, Bazelon, DBSA, APA and MHA sent this letter to ABC President Paul Lee asking them to remove this episode and to air another Halloween themed Modern Family episode in its place. 

For those who have not seen the episode, you can watch last year’s "sneek peek" or the full episode (for a small fee) on Amazon.com, iTunes or Vudu.

Time is of the essence. Here’s what you can—today.

  • Send a copy of the release to the Station Manager and/or News Director of your local ABC station. Ask them to drop the episode and to cover the impact of stigma on the nation’s mental health crisis on Wednesday’s newscasts.
  • Join the Twitter conversation at #unmodernfamily.
  • Post the NAMI press release on Facebook along with the Twitter hashtag: #unmodernfamily.
  • Pass this blog, or the alert, on to your friends and family.
  • Contact ABC and let them know that stigma is real and Modern Family is unmodern in its portrayal of mental illness. Here is a sample letter for you to use: Modern Family should rise above gaining cheap laughs at the expense of 1 in 5 people who live with mental health conditions and their families. This episode reinforces harmful stereotypes and supports the continued stigmatization of mental health around Halloween that has become an outdated and unmodern trend. In the same episode that champions feminism and the guilt felt by being stereotyped, Modern Family doesn’t treat mental illness with the same consideration. Please do not air this episode.
  • Contact your local ABC station and tell them to not air the episode

Some of you may think that we are making a big deal out of nothing, but these images don’t do anything to help people with mental health conditions. They further stereotypes, prevent people from seeking help and keep the discussion of mental health from moving forward.

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